Each and every punishment that is handed out as a result of cannabis prohibition is terrible. No one should ever be penalized for responsibly consuming, possessing, or cultivating the cannabis plant. After all, a peer-reviewed study once found that cannabis is 114 times safer than alcohol.
Cannabis prohibition penalties come in many forms, including fines and jail time, and many forms of punishment come in the form of ongoing stigma. As anyone that has been busted for cannabis will attest, the stigma perpetuates the harm long after the fines or jail time has passed. Obtaining employment, housing, and many types of assistance is nearly impossible for many people convicted of a cannabis offense.
Some punishments in countries with the harshest cannabis laws are particularly horrific. In a handful of countries, people caught with cannabis could face the ultimate punishment – death. Countries that have capital punishment policies for cannabis include Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and China. Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines due to cannabis also occur, unfortunately.
Evolving Laws In Malaysia
Malaysia is another country where people have historically faced the death penalty for a cannabis offense. Even those caught with a minor amount of cannabis (up to 20 grams) can potentially face nine lashings.
Being caught with between 20 and 50 grams of cannabis can result in 5 years in prison. Even cultivating just one cannabis plant can potentially land someone in prison for the rest of their life in Malaysia under current law.
Thankfully, there is a concerted effort to reform Malaysia’s horrific cannabis laws, at least for suffering patients. Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin recently indicated to international media that medical cannabis legalization in Malaysia is ‘being deliberated by several ministries and the Cabinet Committee to Combat Drugs.’
“It is true that we are studying it through the committee I mentioned earlier, and a few ministries are looking into whether the use of cannabis for medical purposes can be allowed. They are also studying what laws can be used in future, God willing,” Hamzah said recently, according to The Star.
A Long Road Ahead
Minister Hamzah’s words were encouraging. Malaysia’s government has pointed to the Cabinet Committee to Combat Drugs in the past as the proper entity to revise the country’s laws. In addition to potentially legalizing medical cannabis, lawmakers in Malaysia are also exploring the idea of softening all cannabis penalties and focusing more efforts on rehabilitation programs.
Any change in Malaysia is obviously a welcome one. However, international cannabis enthusiasts need to temper their expectations. If or when Malaysia legalizes cannabis for medical use, it’s likely to be in a very limited fashion.
The entire region where Malaysia is located is where many of the world’s harshest cannabis laws can be found. However, Thailand has recently made huge strides when it comes to medical cannabis policy. The better things go in Thailand, the more its neighbor Malaysia will take note, and that will hopefully boost Malaysia’s chances of pursuing a constantly improving strategy towards cannabis policy.
Johnny Green is the Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference. Upcoming conferences include Berlin (August 25-27), Zurich (August 31-September 1), and Barcelona (October 7).